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Unit 731 (wikipedia.org)
131 points by rasengan on Oct 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments

The descriptions of what went down there are almost too much to read, this is some straight up dr. Mengele shit.

Most interestingly:

The researchers involved in Unit 731 were secretly given immunity by the U.S. in exchange for the data they gathered through human experimentation... More reading at [0]

While further down the linked article is written:

There was consensus among U.S researchers in the postwar period that the human experimentation data gained was of little value to the development of American biological weapons and medicine. Postwar reports have generally regarded the data as "crude and ineffective", with one expert even deeming it "amateurish".

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_cover-up_of_Japanes...

I once read similar sentiment regarding the nazi efforts. I was curious, because I saw, probably like the U.S. did when they agreed to the exchange, that experimenting on humans like we did on animals could not possibly fail to give insights that would be almost impossible to get otherwise.

Reading what they did, however, it really looked like the valued cruelty over science. The people they hired for that were not qualified (heh, turns out that sociopathic biologists who bought into nazi racist theories were not the brightest) and disregarded any kind of scientific method.

Also one of their goal was to prove the inferiority of some races. Many experiments only had this goal in mind.

I thought they experimented on humans like we do on animals. Animal experimentation may be cruel but cruelty is not the point, actually stress can impact the result in a big way.

I remember they made experiment to see what temperatures the human body can handle. So they subject prisoners to various extreme conditions and... do not even note the time they were exposed to it. It was THAT amateurish. I really feel it was just torture renamed. "Hey, let's burn some Jews! We'll call it science!" "Ok, I'm in." Experiment result: the untermenschen died.

> I really feel it was just torture renamed. "Hey, let's burn some Jews! We'll call it science!" "Ok, I'm in." Experiment result: the untermenschen died.

In most cases they were doing actual science, just divorced from any recognizable morality. I'm less familiar with the Japanese case, but many of the Germans who did similar things were respected scientists (Carl Clauberg is an example). The desire to say "that's not real science" is emotional, but it's not accurate.

The truth is that these kinds of studies used to be not all that rare. The most famous is the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, but there are others. In The US, in the 1920s, at least 800 prisoners were infected with Malaria. Joseph Goldberger similarly experimented on prisoners in attempt to understand pellagra (and refused to let them drop out when their symptoms became unbearable). Richard Strong famously injected people with plague. In some of these cases, subjects signed a waiver, but in others they didn't. Internees in camps could have been induced to sign a waiver if the Germans or Japanese had cared about that.

Morality constrains science. That's a good thing. But it requires us to admit that we could learn more and more quickly if we had no morality. Understanding how radiation affects human reproductive systems or what the human body can withstand is valuable information. It just isn't information that we can obtain while staying with the guidelines of our morality.

"The desire to say "that's not real science" is emotional, but it's not accurate."

I thought that. I was like "OK, no one wants to touch this and they are right, but there has to be some valuable insights!" IIRC the only thing that they learnt was that the human body can survive longer than they thought in very cold water, but even that was hinted by tons of anecdotal evidence.

Really, the lack of protocols and basic measurements looks like it was sub-highschool level. Go read some of the reports, it was mostly about cruelty.

> I was curious, because I saw, probably like the U.S. did when they agreed to the exchange, that experimenting on humans like we did on animals could not possibly fail to give insights that would be almost impossible to get otherwise

Exactly! In that light, these war crimes were doubly atrocious. They weren't even doing actual science.

Read about "German physics". Third Reich Germany's scientific community suffered greatly because they had purged all Jewish people, many of whom were highly qualified and disciplined. Fortunately for the rest of the world, this had a deleterious impact on their war machine as well. I've heard it quipped that "Jewish physics" ended the war.

The most caricatural example was Heisenberg, who was working on the German nuclear program, made a lot of experimental mistakes (he was a very good theorist, an average experimenter) and it turns out that his assistant, who had been designing a lot of experiments, was Jewish and had fled a few years before.

He made a crucial mistake in an experiment that was supposed to gauge the amount of uranium necessary to make a bomb. He failed to take into account impurities in a material. It made him assume the crucial mass necessary was 10x what it is.

Ultimately nazi Germany, after several drawbacks, decided an atom bomb was too far away to pursue.

Compare that to Eduard Pernkopf‘s Topographische Anatomie des Menschen[1] still regarded by many as the most accurate anatomy book and highly sort after by surgeons.

The history of how the book was created is so disgusting that it’s no surprise that it’s no longer in print (that I know of).

I find it very hard to decide what I think about that. I’m glad that any personal opinion I have has no weight.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduard_Pernkopf

I'm sort of surprised that the US was more interested in biological weapons here than the Soviet's but, on reflection, that probably has more to do with post Eisenhower US strategy. The later attitude was that weapons that take over a day to kill wouldn't be useful in a nuclear war that would be over in hours but of course nobody was thinking in those terms in 1945. But the Russians had a different view and kept anthrax warheads on their ICBMs pointed at US cities through the Cold War. I'm not sure which attitude is scarier.

Perhaps it also had to do with the extreme risk of collecting equivalent data in the US, whereas the Soviets had similar programs already operating for decades at that point.


So the CIA had no other way to get that data, whereas the Soviets did.

there are allegations that 731-style biological weapons were dropped by america during the korean war, carried by bugs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegations_of_biological_warf...

covered in part by this errol morris(!) documentary miniseries:


From what I gathered talking to Chinese fellas I worked with (in Canada), this is one of the main reasons why Chinese still strongly dislike Japanese people. In a stereotype sort of way.

They also really don’t like discussing this topic and will answer with much hesitation and only if pressed. So it appears to be a wound that didn’t quite heal yet.

It should be no surprise that it's a wound that hasn't quite healed yet.

Comfort women [0] is another one. Before I immigrated as a kid, HK victims were still trying to sort that out with Japan. South Korea is also a victim, among other SE Asian countries.

I don't dislike the people. I dislike the successive administration that wants to ignore what their country have done to many different groups around that time.

And seeing how the West is complicit, is it that hard to understand there's still mistrust there?

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_women

I'm a big fan of Jocko's podcast, there are great episodes that talk about Unit 731 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mizmXTWDf-4) and the Rape of Nanjing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uylTcj5yDOM) that are worth the time if you're interested in learning about the darker side of history.

The Rape of Nanjing episode is particularly interesting since he goes over the book "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II" by Iris Chang in the first part, following that up with readings from "The Woman Who Could Not Forget" by, Dr. Ying Ying Chang which goes over how researching the Nanjing Massacre affected her daughter Iris deeply enough to the point of ending her own life.

Usually this is stuff that people avoid, but I feel that knowing what people are capable of doing gives some perspective in my life.

We should never forget.

Any speculative fiction about the horrors of runaway AI or the supernatural or some form of extraterrestrial life pale in comparison to what our species has done to itself over the years.

Any horror you could possibly imagine, some wanker has probably already done it to someone else for real.

Some light Saturday reading

Between this and the MKUltra post also on the front page today, I have to wonder if OP spent their Friday night watching Adam Curtis documentaries.

Curtis is a great story teller, and I'm yet to find a factual inaccuracy in his storytelling style of reporting. Full recommendation on anything by this guy.

Netflix and Chill: Crimes Against Humanity

We’ll know more if Soviet stuff shows up or not.

I was thinking the same thing. Whats next, The Nanking Massacre? Stalin's collectivization in Ukraine?

I suppose it's time for the Guatemala syphillis experiment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemala_syphilis_experiment and Harry Haiselden https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_J._Haiselden next.

That Cutler guy only died in 2003, probably still as a respected member of his community...

Parts of the article are intensely horrifying. I almost wish there was a warning.


It would help if you comment on topic like is the article wrong, I would like to know that.

Is there anything factually incorrect in the Wikipedia entry?


The Rape of Nanking, and Imperial Japan's actions, not just of Unit 731, in the war are well recorded and cited fact.

Talking about it is "nefarious motives"? What nefarious motives are there to remind of a particularly dark period of Japanese history?

Pre-revolutionary China was disproportionately a victim of Japan's actions in the 1930s and 1940s. That should be remembered, not taken as cause to make ridiculous claims of psychological manipulation.

That Wikipedia article is a train wreck in shock journalism.

As documented as the material is, the current state is basically just a pile of descriptions of attrocities committed. With many duplicated.

Compare to https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust

I'd guess because no one wants to spend their time reading primary sources about something so terrible, and straightening it out.

Lots of Wikipedia articles today lol pretty interesting, especially all the groups working on human experimentation.

and from the same poster…

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